LONDON - Electronic cigarettes are around 95 percent less harmful than tobacco and should be promoted as a tool to help smokers quit, a study by an agency of Britain's Department of Health said on Wednesday.
E-cigarettes, tobacco-free devices people use to inhale nicotine-laced vapour, have surged in popularity on both sides of the Atlantic but health organizations have so far been wary of advocating them as a safer alternative to tobacco and governments from California to India have tried to introduce bills to regulate their use more strictly.
"E-cigarettes are not completely risk free but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm," said Professor Kevin Fenton from Public Health England, which carried out the study.
Most of the chemicals that cause smoking-related diseases are absent in e-cigarettes and the current best estimate is that e-cigarette use is around 95 percent less harmful to health than smoking, the study said.
Passive inhalation from an e-cigarette was also much less harmful.
The publicly-funded study goes against a 2014 report by the World Health Organization that called for stiff regulation of e-cigarettes and bans on their indoor use and sale to minors.